1993, 02/05. Heat and Pressure. Kill or Be Killed.

Friday February 5

Abe, it seems, has been given another three days. Though the changes expected of him weren’t specified. It was “left on him.”

I just gave a Greek Gospel of John to Giannis, the Greek brother. He speaks English well. Arthur overheard this transaction, saying, “There he goes again, the ‘language expert’ of the church.”

Work at Siegal continues [the current renovation job]. I saw Charles on the subway, hawking the Street News. I also ran into Fred in Grand Central Terminal the other day.

[Charles was a new brother who lived with us a while. I especially liked him, having spent a lot of time with him in Philadelphia during the “810”era. The Street News was a newspaper that the homeless could sell to earn money.]

Temptations abound. A picture here, a pretty face there. I wonder how I can go through the rest of my life without any fulfillment of sexual desires, or without falling into sexual sin, if I am not married. It just doesn’t seem possible, the way it gnaws or outright attacks me. Saying “life is short” is no help at this point. It’s an unnatural fight, and an unnecessary one. Forbidding marriage doesn’t help – when I figure I am twisted up like a corkscrew over not being able to have it. It’s not like I am doing this by my own free choice.

And forbidding is the right word. There is no brother right now who would be given the green light to start a relationship. This is so understood among us that it is never even attempted. Forbid, whether Stewart says, “I forbid you,” as a matter of principle, or because he says we cannot marry because of the way we are, it is still forbidding. Stewart tells us, or told us (it has been so long since he spoke on marriage) that a brother gives into fear, or because of not having a clear concience, he can’t overcome the forces arrayed against him which are standing between him and marriage.

But where did these “forces” come from? I wonder if they only exist here. There are various presuppositions and requirements here. How many are arbitrary, or peculiar only to our own organization? (Forces which exist in our collective imagination, and not in reality.) Imagine a society where the men cannot marry, due to falling short in various ways. The women are eligible, but can’t marry, because they have to wait to be chosen by the men of the society. They can’t go outside the system to look for a mate. (For what would seem to be rightly theirs, the right to marry, and if they did, it would be a shame to the men.)

[Actually, I know now that a few older disters opted to go outside this system and had sex with some of the new brothers.]

So both the men and women suffer quietly together. Living together in the church, yet isolated from one another. So close, yet so far. Though we get the idea, or we must believe, this punishment or maybe extreme delay in being able to move on to marriage, is from Jesus.

In reading back on these past pages, I think it may be good to keep such notations in a separate book selected for this purpose. I will have to give this some thought. This diary was supposed to be, and so far is, my daily life, actions and thoughts, as is, as it occurred. There are various reasons why I want to keep such thoughts in their own separate repository. The other diary, minus this vein of thought, could be more of an event diary.

[Here I was saying that I couldn’t be sure if what I thought was right. I wanted to keep separate diaries, one for thoughts that were critical of the cult and its leader, and the other diary would just be for daily events.]


You can gauge a person’s insight and intelligence by their choice of words, especially by their use of metaphors and puns. A woman we gave an estimate to used the expression “a hair’s breadth.” Also, Pablo made a joke when Paul said Laurie got her shots today. Pablo said that Philippa has to get her shots too, in case she bites Laurie. These things can be used to gauge agility of mind. The ability to make such a joke shows wit and intelligence.

I still have those feelings at times, wishing I could just get away for a while.

I had a sexual dream about a sister in the church last night, though it was not explicit. It left me with a good feeling, the kind of good feeling I would have if was able to have a relationship or was just starting one, and the woman was warm, welcoming, friendly and really liked me.

I also had a dream about Dad last night. [My father died in 1991.] There was a boardwalk and a road along a beach and I was jogging there. I met Dad on the boardwalk and I was talking to him. But then I said, “Yes, but you died.” (Or, you’re dead.) That is, you’re not here anymore. He was dressed in his tennis whites. So far, in all dreams about my father, he seems to be in a good situation. Never anything like “I am in hell now.”

[According to COBU teaching, I would expect that my father went to hell when he died. Yet in any dream I had about him after his death, he always was shown as being in a good place, or told me he was in a good place.]

Like the first dream I had after his death, I saw him walking in a small grassy park. Another time I had a dream that I was in a hospital and was able to talk to him through a wall. He said he was doing pretty good now. (I asked him how he was, and how it is for him now.) He said, “I’m living in a house by the beach and I play a lot of tennis.” Then a lot of people came into the room and there was noise and he began to fade away.

I think I may tell Mom about these dreams. Though I don’t know if I’ll tell her about the dreams I had about his death, before he died. I wonder, could it be okay for him now, where he is? Could God be trying to reassure me about my father? This would lead to questions about whether the absolute truth of evangelical Christianity is true, or at least my perceptions of it. From the way it appears, he should be in hell, dying without Christ, though I do not know how long he lay on his back before dying, after his heart attack and maybe he prayed to God then to be saved. I try to imagine him sometimes, burning in hell, screaming. It’s a picture that is hard to keep in mind. Not because I have evidence showing he lead a Christian life to counteract it, but it’s just hard and too unpleasant to imagine anyone being in hell anyway. Then these dreams come, which seem to show he is okay now where he is. That he is a dead person now and there is peace in death for him, and that he sometimes appears in my dreams, being quite himself and satisfied.

Saturday February 6

Working at Siegal again with Paul B. There was a pretty good snow this morning. We got the typical late start. Yesterday, I got a photocopy from Spurgeon’s “All of Grace” which encouraged me. I even made copies to pass out and got in a conversation on the subway platform with a man who seemed open and I gave him a copy. I thought that this might be better than the U Tracts for reaching some people, because it explains salvation better and it is plainly written without disjointed phrases. And it is not literature that is geared toward getting someone to come over and move in to our church, because not everybody can or will. On the other hand, the U Tract is probably better for the type of people we sweep up. I feel much more comfortable and better able to speak to people from other walks of life than the homeless people we meet, with whom I usually don’t have much to say or can’t seem to find common ground.

[COBU church literature was rather lame and didn’t make much sense. It was better to give people quotes or short writings from Charles Spurgeon, or other Christian writers whose work had stood the test of time, and whose writings were geared toward getting people saved, and were not written for the purpose of getting people to move into COBU and to learn our jargon and be molded into our way of life and our agenda.]

This morning, Chuck was telling us (among other things, such as how there will be increasing heat on the older brothers again) about the new brothers at Woodruff, these ones we sweep up, that if we are not fully there, they will get over on us. (These were messages from Stewart.) But then, I wonder why we have people like this, or why these are the only people we deal with (or trade in, perhaps).

The idea is that we have people living with us who, if we turn our back – even for a moment – they’ll get over on us, as if they have been patiently waiting for this moment all along. And that as long as we apply force, or keep all the keys to everything in our hands, all will go smoothly. And I also wonder then if that’s the philosophy Stewart uses in dealing with us.

Stewart’s worldview is that everything is a war: whether marriage or Christian discipling, and the moment you let up, you are immediately overcome by your wife, or by the people you’re discipling. That is, we can’t trust anybody and everything is an uneasy truce when it is quiet, but we must always keep tightening the screws, because it is a delicate machine that will soon explode if left untended.

Sure, it is obviously true with the new people we bring in off the streets. They, or at least a certain faction or type among them, do take advantage as soon as we let up on them.  But I wonder why it must be so, and it does sound strange when I hear that “if we are not fully there, the new ones will get over on us.” Meaning that these are not new brothers as such, but it is more like the white minority in slave times worrying about a slave uprising. That as long as force and pressure was used on the slaves, they kept their place. But there was always the worry that the slave population would rise up as one man during the night, in a conspiracy and kill all the slaveholders, and this fear fueled the control techniques the slaveowners used on them. The slaves had to be kept broken, divided and subordinated – even if the most trusted ones were allowed in their masters’ houses at all hours as house servants. When control was tight and all the slaves were subjugated, everything looked peaceful and functioned smoothly.

Paul said this morning that he has tried, but we can’t get any one else other than street people and the homeless to come over, because they won’t come. This place is repulsive to just about anyone except for those who have lived in the streets, bus terminals, shelters and under the Brooklyn Bridge. Anyone else, whether they are returning older brothers from way back when (Jay O.), or men temporarily separated from their wives who are trying to work out their marital problems, freak out. They see red, and run out of here!  Whether it’s because they see our living conditions (which we are supposed to be oblivious to, because it’s “not the real issue”), or our system of discipline and control over people. Only those who have been on the bottom of society will submit to this. They’re used to living in just about any condition anyway. Those with a normal foothold on life can’t put up with it. They never do and I have never seen anyone do it. This could be a signal, which is plainly readable, that there’s something wrong with our way of life here, though we think it’s the best way of life.

Of course, I am leaving out the self-incriminating thoughts, such as I know I am not fully there and why don’t I speak with other kinds of people. It’s because I am ashamed of my life. These people have real questions about real things in life, which the new brothers don’t have.

[The homeless people we brought in usually didn’t ask questions about God and life and one’s purpose in it, nor were they, at least at first, critical of the way of life COBU, because they just wanted a place to stay.]

KGB [Kevin] calls on the phone, asking about me Abe. Then, in a dramatic voice not unlike a Certain Other Person’s voice, he says, “You of all people would know what’s up with Abraham.” [Kevin was imitating Stewart Traill’s voice.] This was such a loaded statement that I didn’t want to touch it with a ten foot pole. I did the best I could to avoid it. I had been wondering if I was going to be drawn into this somehow – maybe for a re-auditing, so to speak. If I have to (and I don’t know if I will have to) be called upon to give an account about how Abe’s behavior has been, I could be (re)swept into incriminations over incidents and attitudes from my own past. (The idea is that I could be linked with Abe.)  It seems it is never forgotten that I have disagreed or confronted Stewart about something and it can be sprung on at me at any time, with open-ended and fearful consequences.

[If I stood up for or defended Abraham in any way, or have done something that even looks that way, like I did in a meeting a short while ago, it could be misinterpreted to my hurt, if I am perceived not to be in complete unity with the brothers at any point, but instead siding with or defending Abraham, a “rebellious” new brother. Especially if anything Abraham said can be percieved as criticism or “contention” against the COBU way of life, its teachings or its leader. If I have defended Abraham, it will be brought up against me, or dug up again, that I had questioned Stewart Traill and the COBU way of life more than a few times. And the line of questioning the brothers will subject me to can get extremely nasty.]

I felt that Kevin loaded me right into the punishment with Abe. It was a strange leverage requirement tactic. We know your past secrets. I can’t explain it exactly, but it was strange. The idea is that I could be linked with Abe or his behavior if I don’t kill Abe right off. Especially if I don’t, though others may not necessarily have to do this. I feel now as if it is “either you or him, kill or be killed.” I feel a strange pressure and motivation to get on Abe’s case now, almost like I was blackmailed into it by weird leverage and psychological pressure.

Kevin could have just asked me to get on Abe’s case without all that manipulation. It was as if he was saying, “Yes, and after we are done with him, we are going to have another look at you.” (The idea is that Kevin thinks these kinds of things about me, all all the time, but usually doesn’t talk to me about it. Not that I’d want him to either. But he can pull it out to use against me at crucial moments. This is one of the reasons why I keep quiet at meetings.)

But, the implication is that maybe I could mitigate my impending evaluation by coming in with Abe’s head on a platter to please my superiors. To show I’ve really repented and am being good, because it was either him or me. That’s quite a price to pay to show the others that I am being good now, to save my own skin, motivated by fear and terror. Now I don’t want to talk to Abe about anything. (While looking at Abe, I had been thinking that in some ways, I am looking at myself. Whether because of his attitudes, or perhaps for sins he has chosen.) But, I do fear that I am going to be swept into the vortex with this one. But, with or without this pressure to behave a certain way toward Abe now, I always fear that this will be lurking ready to devour me at any time. [That my past record can be brought up and used against me at any time.]

I prayed about this. I see and admit now that I was being cowardly and didn’t confront Kevin directly on this, but just accepted his under the counter manipulation. I didn’t want to hear in plain English what he was loudly insinuating. But, the thing is already known anyway. But it’s so horrible that I don’t want to hear it, much less have it used on me to get me do something. But, I have seen Kevin crumble like a house of cards when I have pushed him to deal with me or with things through legitimate means, rather than by the methods he relies on for leverage. Possibly, when he’s deprived of his toys – or weapons – he’s as weak as anybody, but he will scramble to get his hands on something to use or to depend on to get his will done. Like using other people on me, or my past sins and dirt on me. The most sensitive parts of it, too. In fact, though he comes on strong, such a play betrays weakness, because he has to depend on it, rather than freely and openly approaching me about a subject, or, even asking me to do something.

Paul is looking at a National Geographic map of Scotland. He asked me where I had been when I was there. That was back in 1979. I am thinking about writing my autobiography, because a lot will be learned and it will be of value. The (wrong) idea is that only the present and its problems are my life, but this is not all there is to me. There is more to me. God is also in the past. He did things for me then too. Rather than only focusing on the cuting edge of today’s pain, it might be a revealing exercise. It’s like I’m missing a big piece of myself, as if I have only lived here [in COBU] all my life. Of course I have the feeling that looking back is wrong, and that also if it feels good to do, it must be wrong, because as Stewart says, it’s a painkiller.

I dozed off for a while as I was waiting for floor finish to dry. I woke up with a strange thought of being hunted and hounded like a fugitive because I harbor thoughts contrary to our way and to our leader, and that therefore I am a danger to everybody.


Now I’m stuck at the office with Paul, trying to arrange a ride to Red Hook with some equipment, but no go.  I’m trying to do something with the time.

I am now writing in this diary just because I like to do it.  Pretty soon it will be full and I will need to start a new one.

It is now late Saturday night. We are about to sand some steps (here at Andrew’s wood wood shop in Red Hook). The latest news item I keep hearing noised about by brothers who look obviously agitated is that there is going to be a lot of heat.

[Stewart was saying through the messages he sent out that he was going to put lot of pressure on everyone and we are expected and required to put pressure on each other.]

Who knows where this will go? In these times, everyone gets nervous and apprehensive, and strangely animated. On their part at least, it’s time for a lot of crazy antics. We never know how far these things will go. I think the immediate cause for Stewart putting pressure on us is how lax things have been at Woodruff. Nineteen new brothers have left in three days, among other things. But, in the back of everyone’s minds may be memories of past heat waves that lead to 810 and all that happened there, including what seemed to be another attempt by Stewart to upend the fellowship and hold it by one corner and dump all the older brothers out.

The mere mention of the word “heat” sends everyone scurrying. Just the idea that there’s going to be heat, long before it ever gets here. What is this heat? The fellowship is arranged in such a way that it doesn’t take much to do it. The mere mention of the word is enough. Obviously, it (the word that is) comes from Stewart. (Though we would say, or should say, that the heat comes from Jesus.) But all Stewart really does is say a few words and that’s all! All scurry. It really doesn’t seem to take much effort on his part. He just has to say, “There is going to be some heat.” All are worried, for themselves. All things are upset. All coming from this one man. He starts tightening the screws. All are on the offensive. It is him against us. Everyone is scared for their lives!

Sometimes I think this is pretty unreal. It’s another one of those things that come at us on a sub-rational level, and not on a level where we think. Stewart just presses the buttons and all the rats start whirring. These are grown up adults, fully able, one would think, to speak clearly for themselves. But all run like scared animals and why not? I know what it feels like to be under Stewart’s heat, especially on those occasions when he is not just applying the heat to us as a group, but he begins to aim it directly at me.

Read the next section of the journal here: Stewart And The Sisters Are Going to Haiti. (A Pre-Departure Beating.)

These journal pages are part of the source material for my book, Captive Congregation: My Fourteen Years in the Church of Bible Understanding, which is available as a Kindle book or in paperback


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